Forget the 7 deadly sins. Focus on the 9 miracles of the mind.

Notes on the Sunday address by Dr Francis Macnab, 13 September 2015.
By John Abbate.


“Rejoice in the Lord always,” says the Bible. Most of us take life for granted. “We’re not into rejoicing,” said Dr Macnab. In some churches, dealing with the evil of sin has become the focus of religious practice. There is not much rejoicing going on there.

In this address, Dr Macnab asks us to “forget the seven deadly sins; instead focus on the nine miracles of the mind.” The everyday workings of the functional human mind are truly miraculous. By turning the spotlight inward, Dr Macnab is able to present nine of these minor miracles of the mind. There may be many more.

Nine Miracles of the Mind

  1. The healing of the mind; how the mind can turn the worst experience into something positive.
  2. The best things in life may be hidden. Getting in touch with the good, hidden things in life can be like finding the “trees concealed in the poppies” of a painting by Gustav Klimt. The mind has the miraculous the ability to disclose these things that might have remained hidden.
  3. Memory—the ability to remember and forget, to recall, in an instant, something thought lost forever—provides us with many powerful experiences through life; it is a miracle of the mind.
  4. The mind’s ability to filter, fence and fold. We have the capacity to filter out unpleasant memories and let positive thoughts rise, to fence-off the negative, destructive forces within us, and, at the end of the day, to fold over into the restorative embrace of sleep.
  5. The capacity to manage and control fear, to put fear in a “manageable place and a manageable perspective.” The mind can regather itself, bringing order from chaos.
  6. The mind speaks with a powerful voice to the body. It can both conjure illness and open pathways to healing. Equally, the body speaks to the mind; it is a miraculous conversation.
  7. Even in sleep, the mind works for us. Our dreams are so odd, so creative and mysterious; they speak to us in a strange and different language. By listening to that different language, our dreams can sometimes “add a different meaning to life’s anxieties, and life’s aspirations.” Dr Macnab also reminds us of a more vital function of dreams: they protect sleep from both internal and external disturbances, a theory first put forward by Sigmund Freud over a century ago and supported by recent brain science. Only on rare occasions do our dreams themselves become so disturbing as to rouse us. For the most part, we slumber through the occasional external noise or bodily twitch or twinge, as those inputs are either ignored or absorbed into the narrative of the dream—truly, a miracle of the mind.
  8. Imagination. Though the imagination can run out of control, even to the point of dislodging our grip on reality, where would we be without it? Can you imagine a world without imagination? It is a gift of the mind that we so easily take for granted. Why not exercise it instead?
  9. Conversation; talking together; a dialogue “leading us to a successful relationship.” Conversation is that miracle that teaches us how to meet in friendship, to collaborate, and to flourish together.

At the end of the address, Dr Macnab highlights one bonus miracle: that today a group of people can stand together and recite words first spoken more than 2000 years ago, yet still receive great meaning and enrichment for the mind and spirit from those words.

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